What is wrong with The Science?
Reflections on the unnoticed revolution in our academic institutions that took root in the middle of the 20th century and is steadily wringing all that is original, interesting and good out of them.
My post on declining innovation across all fields of scientific research and invention prompted many comments as to the cause. The rise of preferential hiring and admissions, the overproduction of PhDs, the pestilential scourge of peer review, careerism – you brought up all these and more, and I agree that all of this plays a part. Here, I want to paint a larger picture, by proposing that these are all symptoms of a much deeper phenomenon.
Basically, our scientific institutions changed profoundly in the course of the twentieth century, in ways that were hardly noticed at the time. Intentionally or otherwise, these changes have tended to deprioritise innovation and genuine intellectual progress, in favour of slow, predictable, iterative effort. It is even fair to say that the goals and the purpose of these institutions have fundamentally changed; very many of them are no longer interested in discovery or progress at all. If this is surprising, it is because our understanding of their purpose proceeds from an earlier era, prior to this great, unnoticed revolution.
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